stephanie jones

Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Feeding on the reading frenzy…

In Education Policy, literacy, Reading, teaching reading on July 8, 2010 at 2:59 am

This spring a grad student asked me about the “Department of Education Reading Institute” being held in California.

I tilted my head and squinted my eyes (I know, because that’s what I do when I get suspicious).

Her school district was offering to pay teachers’ expenses to fly to California and attend the institute – hotel accommodations, food, and all.

I choked down the “What would the Department of Education know about reading?” instinctive response, and quietly googled DOE Reading Institute.

Well, there it was.

But there it wasn’t too.

There were no speakers listed yet, no titles of sessions, no objectives even published.

But teachers could register.

But there’s nothing here. I told my student. I don’t know what to tell you, but I don’t know why a district would agree to pay to send teachers to something when it’s not even a thing yet – what is it supposed to be about?

Reading, idiot.

But of course.

So then I’m perusing Susan Ohanian’s blog and find her outrage at the DOE Reading Institute (which now has plenty of speakers listed).

Then it all becomes clear (of course it seems that way when someone else lays it out for you):

DOE Reading Institute is code for phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and maybe a little comprehension.

DOE Reading Institute is code for scripted programs, authors of scripted programs, authors of “evidence-based” reading practices.

DOE Reading Institute is code for MAKING MONEY FOR PUBLISHERS AND PROGRAMS TO TELL TEACHERS WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS – even when what those things are DON’T MAKE SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!



this ugly, despicable, embarassing, shameful, feeding on this country’s reading frenzy is exhausting.

Guess what we need to do to get kids to read more, read better, and read more critically? We need to be reading TO them, reading WITH them, and giving them lots of high-interest materials and lots of time for them to READ by themselves and with others.

It costs very little to do this…

But instead, we’ll create lots of reluctant and resistant “struggling” readers who will despise anything related to reading by pushing them through meaningless instruction and exercises that cost lots of money.

really…when will this nightmare end?

Response to critic of ajc piece…

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests, institutions, NCLB, politics, Standing up for Kids, teacher education on July 6, 2010 at 3:24 am

A reader of ajc contacted me via email today after reading my opinion piece on standardized education and standardized testing.

The reader was critical of public education and teachers in particular, and believes that the poor quality of schooling is the reason the U.S. has become, what the reader calls, “a pauper nation.”

I agree with many of his concerns, especially those related to better education and economic conditions – I responded personally to his email but will paste my response here because it certainly is a nice extension of what was published in ajc today:

Dear Reader,

Thank you for taking the time to locate my email address and respond to my piece in the ajc. I empathize with your perspectives and agree that public confidence in schooling is a train wreck and there are many reasons why the public should be angry with what is happening in schools. Most of our current “problems” in schools have roots in the Standards movement that gained much steam under the Clinton administration and led to hyper testing and high-stakes “accountability” that backfired and turned many classrooms and schools into places where getting students to fill in the correct bubble on a test is more important than knowing whether a student understands or has “learned” anything.

I am not against tests. I am against using tests as the single measure in a high-stakes environment.

There is much evidence that doing so puts the adults in schools in positions where they may do unethical things (cheat, for example) they would have never done under different circumstances to keep their jobs rather than focus their energies and interests on student learning. And, unfortunately, plenty of evidence that students are suffering – and learning less – under such conditions.

Schools have always been the scapegoat for the United States’ economic woes. Economic policies, however, driven by neoliberal economic theories since the 1970s that have widened the gap between the rich and poor, driven down wages of the working-class, rewarded businesses that move operations out of the U.S. to exploit cheaper labor, etc. must be held accountable for, as you put it, “transforming us into a pauper nation.” I would add that this has transformed us into a service-oriented economy that relies too heavily on finance and too little on manufacturing and production – two pieces intimately connected to U.S. debt to China.

I wish education could fix this. Trust me, as a person in education I really do wish that what happened in schools could make a significant difference in the problem you state well. It might be a piece of the solution – educating a smart, innovative, knowledgeable, hard-working citizenry should certainly help – our legislators, however, and the leading economists advising our legislators, have some changing to do before our economic woes can begin to turn around.

I assure you this, our education students here are not being shuffled through the higher education program and we are doing everything in our power to recruit, prepare, and retain the highest quality teachers in the nation. We have professors committed to teaching undergraduate students in education (something that too often gets handed over to graduate students to do), and we are well aware of the challenges we – and future teachers – face.

One of those challenges is to get policy makers to understand the damage high-stakes testing mandates are doing to our schools and our students’ futures. Talented teachers, who can and do “turn the light on in young minds” (as you put it) are leaving by the busloads because they haven’t had the freedom to use their talents since 2001. Those who have stayed are faced with ridiculous requirements daily that have nothing to do with educating young people.

Thank you, again, for writing. You have given me a nice opportunity to think through and respond to your legitimate concerns, many of them also concerns of mine.

All my best,

Anti-testing Piece in Atlanta Journal Constitution

In Education Policy, family-school relations, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, social action, Standing up for Kids on July 6, 2010 at 12:35 am

Thanks to AJC education journalist Maureen Downey for publishing my editorial on testing….first on the ajc “get schooled” blog and today in print:

UGA Professor: Education does not lend itself to standardization or standardized testing

Great essay from TCR on high-stakes testing and the relentless push of “individualism”

In American Dream, communities, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics on July 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Ahhhh yes, just what we want, a bunch of individual people moving about in their isolated worlds only caring about what they can accumulate: high test scores, better grades, bigger happy faces from state and federal government more impressive resume, bigger cars, faster computers, fancier clothes, high-powered friends, more “green” possessions, it could go on and on and on where everything in a society is commodified and fetish-ized…and where everyone learns to only be concerned about themselves and not the impact their actions have on others – or the future of the planet.

Well, we’ve always known schooling as an institution (at least in the United States where individualism is so deeply embedded in the roots of our country) promotes individualism unless students land in a classroom where a teacher explicitly teaches against it…but do we realize the impact of high-stakes testing and how it propels individualist ideology even further?

Check out this essay…great food for thought even if it doesn’t end this nightmare we are in…

The Other Side of Poverty in Schools Workshop

In anti-bias teaching, classism, family-school relations, institutions, poverty, social class, Standing up for Kids on July 1, 2010 at 2:10 am

Next workshop:


March 4-5, 2011 – Come to Athens, Georgia for this great 2-day workshop!



Mark Vagle and I are offering a workshop on social class, poverty, and schooling July 27 – 28, 201o at the University of Georgia.

Click here for flyer and information

Click here for the news release

Click here to register

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